Lotus Notes leapfrogged Microsoft Exchange to garner top grades in the latest version of a customer satisfaction survey that Exchange dominated last year.
Consulting firm Creative Networks (CNI) has released the results of its second annual survey of messaging customers who use Lotus Development's Notes/Domino, Microsoft's Exchange and Novell's GroupWise. Lotus scored highest of the trio in six out of eight categories, while Exchange logged the top score in only two.
Last year, Exchange bested Notes in all but one area in which customers were asked to rate their satisfaction levels on a scale of one to five. Moreover, Exchange tallied lower scores in six of eight instances this year, although the dips were relatively small. Lotus' grades rose in every area.
"The big surprise this year was that Lotus overtook Microsoft in so many categories over last year," said Nina Burns, president of CNI. Exchange has sold more than 13 million seats since its debut two years ago and larger deployments may be experiencing "growing pains," she added.
"Customers are having to deal with that more now than they were last year," when the average Exchange shop surveyed had only eight months of experience with the product, Burns said. "We hear that [customers] are having to pay more attention to the architecture and deal with NT scalability issues as well as Exchange scalability issues in order to get the performance that they are looking for out of the systems."
Microsoft's average survey score ranged from a low of 3.21 for service and support, down from 3.8, to a high of 4.03 for performance, up a notch from 4.0. The low for Lotus was a 3.54 for technical support, up from last year's 3.1, and the high was 4.06 for overall system attributes, vs. a 3.81 in 1997. The survey covered 26 Lotus shops and 28 apiece for Microsoft and Novell, which finished second or third in every category.
While acknowledging that Exchange "could be seeing some" evidence of growing pains, the survey is not indicative of any widespread dissatisfaction, according to Stan Sorensen, a Microsoft product manager. "Whenever you see something like that you certainly have to take it seriously and ask if there is something that needs to be improved," he said, adding the company had yet to thoroughly examine the results.
Although not a survey participant himself, one network administrator who oversees both Notes and Exchange installations said he is not surprised by the rankings.
"They both have pros and cons, but I've found from an administrative point of view that Notes is much better," said Jerry Fain, manager of information technology at Winter, Wyman & Co. "If I had to choose between the two, I'm more comfortable with Notes."
Fain added that he finds Notes easier to trouble-shoot, although "from a [SMTP] point of view, Exchange is a little more sound at this point."
The CNI survey shows Lotus with markedly improved scores in the area of customer service and support, a long-running problem the company has gone to great lengths to address. Fain said he believes the fruits of that labour are visible at his company.